The choices to cut down the roster to 53 at the end of preseason are always difficult. This year for the New Orleans Saints coaching staff, they were especially tough.
Appearing on the list of now ex-Saints are veteran leaders and young talents, failed projects and local products.
Highlighting the list are three venerable veterans: center Jerry Fontenot, linebacker Darrin Smith and runningback Lamar Smith. Fontenot was one of two players remaining on the team from the Ditka era of Saints football, and with Willie Whitehead landing on the physically-unable-to-perform list and not the active roster, today's roster cutdown represents the completion of the surgical removal of all pre-Haslett players.
Whitehead, who joined the Saints in 1999 as an undrafted free agent, could return to the active roster, pending the condition of his knee, for the sixth week of the season while Fontenot would likely be first on the Saints' list should an injury occur on the interior of the offensive line. Whitehead has missed most of the offseason with the injury.
Darrin Smith has been synonymous with Haslett's Saints football teams since the beginning. Smith joined the team shortly before training camp 2000 and has since done nothing but amass 315 total tackles in 51 starts over four season. His removal from the linebacker rotation paves the way for seventh round pick Colby Bockwoldt, who was a tackle machine this preseason, to develop with the Saints.
Lamar Smith auditioned for his old team and likely future team last Friday night. Smith gained 52 yards rushing against the Dolphins in the preseason finale. Smith was with Miami in 2000 and 2001 and gained 2107 yards for them.
The Dolphins, desperate for runningback help after being abandoned by Ricky Williams, called the Saints last week to ask about Smith's durability at age 33.